A simple answer to explain the horrific scene that unfolded last Friday in Newtown CT doesn’t exist. Easy access to guns especially assault rifles is part but not the entire blame. A young man with mental health issues who may not have received appropriate treatment adds to the utter carnage. The world around us is violent, unforgiving and hostile.
Adam Lanza and others like him are products of our gun-toting culture. Exit polls at the recent presidential election said that at least 40% of Americans own at least one weapon. Many own multiple guns including handguns, assault rifles and shotguns. Despite our staggering murder rate that includes children caught in the crossfire, Congress resists proposed legislation to control military style assault weapons. Even after one of their own, former Congress woman Gabrielle Giffords, was nearly assassinated in January 2011 at a Congress on your corner event in Tucson, there was only concern at the state level to rein in guns. The efforts were shrugged off by the GOP dominated Arizona legislature.
The second amendment says we have the right to bear arms but does a home owner need a rapid fire lethal weapon as protection against burglars? I doubt that’s what the founding fathers had in mind. It was one such weapon, a Bushmaster, used in the murderous attack in Newtown.
Lanza is said to suffer from Asberger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism. His gun loving mother probably should not have allowed a mentally disturbed young man to shoot a gun, even under parental supervision. He ultimately used his mother’s weapons to end her life and that of 26 others at the Sandy Hook school, including 20 children and his own.
Society glorifies violence. Lanza had to see that in his youth. There is tremendous profit from video games, movies, and television which glorify death and destruction. Some even depict cruelty to helpless animals. Facebook is loaded with filthy disgusting pages denigrating women, dogs, racial groups and disabled people. Some have thousands of “likes.” Professional sports are rife with violence. Ever seen a hockey game without kicking, shoving and punching? No, me either. Even the president of the Unites States is mocked routinely by thousands of wickedly smiling grinning people. Threatening comments on tea party pages are disturbing and worrisome. That these people raise children concerns me.
A stigma follows people with mental illness. Clinical depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and Down’s syndrome are often not viewed with the same compassion as someone who has diabetes, epilepsy, or breast cancer. Thus, mentally ill people avoid treatment. Serious disorders go untreated. Mentally ill people become a danger to themselves ending up incarcerated or homeless. Few become dangerous to others but when they do the results can be deadly. Public health funding for the mentally ill is grossly underfunded and probably will remain that way as Congress seeks to cut its way out of a multi-trillion dollar deficit.
Wars and bloodshed occur around the world. The US is partly responsible for the explosive death rate in Mexico and Latin America. If it wasn’t for our insatiable appetite for drugs, the cartels probably wouldn’t exist. Admittedly the cartels should be smarter than we are but the lure of so much easy money is hard to resist.
American drones kill four year old Afghan children yet we are not outraged. Why not? It is not acceptable for the US to murder innocent people to insure our safety any more than it is OK for deranged gun men to shoot innocent theater goers.
Our leadership fails us at most levels. Congress is as dysfunctional as a divorcing couple in psychotherapy. They cannot agree on anything. They argue and bicker like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s. Congress shows more allegiance to the DC lobbyists than to the voters. That’s appalling and shameful.
Changing the culture of violence won’t happen overnight. Weaning Congress off lobbyist money if it happens at all will take a generation. A non-violent society begins with me. It begins with you. Start with kindness. Have an open mind. Smile at someone you don’t know every day. Say hello, how are you? Peace begins with a smile. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said if we don’t live as brothers (and I assume he meant sisters) then we’ll all perish together as fools.
Don’t let them happen. Be kind, be loving, be peaceful and work to end the violence.